Streak vs streak — Reading 2005-2009 vs Brigadiers 1999-2003

by Adam Burdett, DCW staff

DCA has been in existence for many years and has featured many different champions over the decades. But in the semi-recent past, two corps have dominated the majority of the last 12 years or so of all-age drum and bugle corps action.

The corps I am referring to are the Syracuse Brigadiers and the Reading Buccaneers. Both corps have epic win streaks that span several years with many similarities.

Starting with the Syracuse Brigadiers, it was a show in Belleville, ONT, on July 10 of the 1999 season where the Brigadiers avenged an early-season defeat to the Empire Statesmen. Who would have known that this corps would not taste defeat again until late in the 2003 season?

Unofficially — and according to the scores archives on the DCA Web site at — the winning streak spanned a grand total of 46 competitions.

The Reading Buccaneers’ streak began at the 2005 season opener in Wildwood, NJ, on June 18. A two-point victory over the Empire Statesmen (2004 defending champions) turned a lot of heads, but this was just a warm-up, so to speak. The streak currently spans 47 shows, one more than the Brigadiers’ record.

With the season opener for 2010 in Wildwood, NJ, looming, one wonders if this streak will end or continue by the time this article is published.

The similarities between the two corps lie in the consistency that each organization has shown over the years of their respective record-breaking series. Both had a design that was evident year after year, regardless of the music theme or selections chosen for each corps.

The Brigadiers used the jazz idiom extensively. Their use of big-picture visuals to maximize General Effect was second to none. Props were the word of the day as well as the Brigs always had something to help tell the story. Spectators could find stop lights, platforms and a structure that rivaled the Titanic in 1999.

The Reading Buccaneers have used a classical approach throughout their current streak better than anyone. Despite what one might perceive as a more boring approach, the shows have been anything but that. Mind you, I am not saying that anyone has called this program boring, just trying to make a comparison from Classical to Jazz.

The corps’ productions have left nobody seated by show’s end. Intricate rhythms and musical passages, DCA’s strongest drum line and some of the most gorgeous ballads in DCA history could be found in these productions.

Both corps could be counted on to bring the house down early and often. While some corps start the season with unfinished productions, both consistently started with a fairly polished product for June and early July. The entire ranks of DCA would be playing catch-up from day one and rarely would anyone be able to gain substantial ground by the end of August.

From a scoring standpoint, both of these corps have set the standard for the highest DCA score to date at some point during their streak. For the Brigs, the 2002 DCA Finals performance would achieve the highest score up to that point, with a mind-boggling 98.6 and a full caption sweep.

Not to be outdone, the Bucs put that number to rest seven years later at the 2009 DCA Championship with their score of 99.025.

From the standpoint of competition, neither corps was challenged for the majority of their streaks. The Brigs had some close calls with the Reading Buccaneers during the 2001 season, before narrowly defeating them at DCA Finals by the slimmest of margins, 0.1.

The Brigs dominated the latter half of the 1999 season, the entire 2000 and 2002 seasons, and the early two-thirds of the 2003 season, before having their run end at the hands of the Hawthorne Caballeros in West Haven, CT, on August 23, 2003.

The Reading corps has finished undefeated for the last five consecutive seasons. During 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009, it is a safe statement to say that the Buccaneers were never seriously challenged at any DCA competition. During the 2006 season, three corps (Hawthorne Caballeros, Bushwackers, Empire Statesmen) took their best shots at the Bucs, only to come up agonizingly short in the end.

The Empire Statesmen were within tenths of a possible championship, but at the last showdown, the Bucs squeaked it out in one of the most balanced finals in many years last summer.

One wonders what would happen if we could somehow place the 2002 Brigadiers against the 2009 Buccaneers. How would a show like that pan out? These are arguably the two greatest shows in the history of DCA. Hard to imagine the Brigs’ horn line losing that battle, but maybe consider that a push to the execution of the Bucs’ percussion section.

Visually, it’s hard to find a flaw in either performance that could set the two apart. Leaving the results in the hands of the General Effect judges would probably still leave us wondering. The corps were so different in style, but so similar in execution that it’s hard to even pretend that this competition could take place and we could determine a winner.

The bottom line is this — both streaks were incredibly impressive; one still is for the moment.

Arguing about the past and trying to place different year corps against one another is something that we as drum corps fans do. I can tell you this, if I was a corps director and had to face either of these corps in their prime, I’d probably try to find shows where neither would attend.

They are two corps that won over fans and judges alike for a long time. Thanks to both groups, the activity and DCA in general, will never be the same.